And the best, simplest, most efficient way to do that? Run. If you are a beginning runner, if you have never tried it, or if it’s been quite a while since you laced up a pair of running shoes, you might be surprised how easy it is to get started. And it’s even easier when you follow these 10 tips that all experienced runners know.
1. Park stress at the door.
Stress can increase muscle tension and keep you from breathing deeply as you run. Have a mantra for when you head out the door that will remind you to clear your mind: “Running starts now.” Or: “Thinking stops; running starts.”
2. Don’t expect so much.
Just go out and run. Sure, every once in a while, test yourself on a challenging run or in a race. But most of the time, just run. For time, not distance or speed.
3. Strengthen your core.
The muscles of the midsection, back and front, help lift and drive the legs. If they’re not strong, your legs simply “dangle” at the bottom of your body and don’t propel you as forcefully. Try these easy ab exercises that don’t require any equipment.
4. Skip a day.
Most runners, when they aren’t feeling well and every run seems hard, think they’re not doing enough running. But it could be you’re doing too much.
5. Start more slowly each time out.
Figure out a time frame that works for you—3 minutes? 5 minutes?—and make yourself walk or jog very slowly for that period before getting into your normal training pace. This gives your body time to acclimate and can make the rest of your run feel a lot better.
6. Add a little speed.
Okay, a bit counterintuitive here, but including regular doses of faster running will get you fitter, which makes your regular training runs feel easier.
7. Add a little distance.
Same thing as speedwork. You’ll get stronger and have better endurance when you have some longer runs on your schedule, so your regular-length training runs will be easier.
8. Hit the treadmill.
Many would say that running outdoors is "real" running. But sometimes you just need to zone out, and there's nothing wrong with heading to the gym to get your miles in. You won’t have to worry about rain, dogs, hills, or anything else. Just bring some music, set the pace, and go. (If it's seasonal allergies that keep you indoors, see our story on exercising with allergies.
9. Eat lightly and often.
If you run more than 2 hours after eating something, your blood sugar will be lower than it should be for running, and you’ll feel it. Eat or drink something before you head out in the morning, have a midmorning snack before a lunch run, or eat a midafternoon snack before an evening run.
10. Drink often, too.
Research shows that even a 2 percent reduction in your total body fluid can make running feel more difficult. Dehydration also lowers your metabolism, which can decrease your energy. Don’t wait until you’re on the road. Sip water all day long, and take in a good 16 ounces an hour before a run.
Adam Bean, a former editor at Runner’s World magazine, has been a runner for more than 30 years. He loves it now as much as he ever has.